Human centered design is an immensely powerful concept and practice. Its power is illustrated in our recent project with the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo-Wellington-Dufferin, investigating how we might improve the system of mental health and addictions services for adults in the region.

Despite our best efforts, we still have a mental health and addictions system of siloed services. We know we are not keeping up with the demand for services and that people are waiting too long to get care. We hear that for people, their families and for people delivering care, the experience is often hard, frustrating and overwhelming. We know we can do better. In August 2015, Overlap and CMHA WWD embarked on a journey in human centered design to improve services based on the experiences of people in the system. 




By placing the people who experience the services at the centre of the design process, we learned about the aspects of the service experience that have a huge effect on people but that we typically don’t focus on when services are designed. What happens when I walk into a new mental health service location? Is there someone there to greet me? Is that person smiling? Are they behind a glass wall? Do I feel welcome? What are the things in my life that make me feel great? How can I get more of that? How can those things be used to quell the anxiety I feel entering that new service location? 

Human centered design is about getting the answers to those questions and working with the stakeholders involved in the service delivery to come up with a system of services that feel good to access. Visit to learn more about the human centered research process, the insights gained, and the outputs from the project.